Will Jungle Cruise Revitalize the Adventure Film?
Bring on the family-friendly fun!
Disney just released the first trailer for Jungle Cruise, a family adventure film inspired by one of Disneyland’s oldest and most beloved rides. The film stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Frank, the grizzled riverboat captain and Emily Blunt as Lily, a scientist on a quest to find a legendary plant that cures all ills. Together, the duo must face dangerous animals, supernatural spirits, and a cadre of bad guys led by Jesse Plemons.
There’s a lot to like here, especially the chemistry between charisma machines Johnson and Blunt. Jungle Cruise also promises promises to be a throwback to one of the most universally beloved genres: the good old fashioned adventure film.
Adventure films offer simple and crowd-pleasing premise: a couple (or a group) banters their way through various action sequences in exotic locales. They can be driven by a treasure hunt, a rescue mission, or simply surviving harsh terrain. They are escapism, pure and simple, and when done well, these movies become instant classics, like the Indiana Jones series.
Jungle Cruise seems to be taking a page from Disney’s previous theme park hit, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The 2003 film was also a period piece based on finding a rare treasure, with supernatural elements. And that’s certainly a smart move. The Pirates franchise was a runaway hit, spawning 5 films which earned nearly $5 billion globally.
Along with the Pirates films, movies like National Treasure have also attempted to capture the same magic, with diminishing returns. The Jumanji films have been successful in energizing the genre as well. But adventure films have largely been supplanted by superhero movies.
The unstoppable superhero genre fills the family action void with powered heroes and recognizable branded characters. And there is plenty of globe-trotting fun to be had. But I miss the more human stories where relationships are driving the action. Films like Romancing the Stone, which Jungle Cruise references in their poster art:
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) March 10, 2020
And while I love superhero films, I think that there is a disconnect, especially for older audiences that don’t want to wade through all the complex mythology. Don’t believe me? Ask your parents to explain the plot of Avengers: Endgame.
I genuinely can’t remember the last good romantic comedy adventure film. As a kid, I spent hours watching Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas bicker and fall in love while traversing the Colombian jungle. But Romancing the Stone is 35 years old. Films like Fool’s Gold and The Bounty Hunter have tried to capture the same magic, with diminishing returns.
Will Jungle Cruise be the film to pick up its mantle?
Jungle Cruise hits theaters July 24th. Are you excited to see it or will you give it a pass?
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